Skip to main content

Reply to this post | See parent post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: J.B. Nicholson Date: Apr 18, 2004 1:35pm
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Try FLAC instead.

I don't think I'm missing the point at all, I think I'm speaking directly to that point. On a purely practical level, Shorten can't compete (as that FLAC chart illustrates quite well) and as anyone with "out of date" proprietary software can attest to, bad things happen to one's archive of Shorten files when they discover too late that they can't improve Shorten to keep up with various changes in computer hardware and operating systems. Users also cannot distribute an improved version even if they illegally altered Shorten.

In case you think I'm overstating the case, I encourage you to consider 1960 and 1970 census data which was locked up in a proprietary compression format from Dualabs. A while ago people lost their ability to uncompress US Census data because they only had decompressors written in IBM assembler that ran on (what is now) obsolete hardware--an IBM 370/135. Data archivists who wanted to do research including this data had to cobble together incomplete copies of that census data from previous decompression runs and (if that was insufficient) eventually reverse-engineer the format to decompress it. Today, the work they did reverse engineering data formats could very well be illegal even though these data archivists were trying to access publicly owned data (this work remains undone to this day for this reason--even now, nobody has a complete uncompressed copy of the 1960 and 1970 US Census, but complete compressed copies remain available). All of this headache was incurred because the federal government didn't have the foresight to require that the contractors at Dualabs write free software (which the contractors probably would have done because they were getting paid the same money for the work regardless of the license on the final version of their work). Dualabs went out of business in the 1970s and we have our current situation.

How many times do we need to make the same mistake before we're willing to admit that free software and free software formats stand a better chance at being supported into the indeterminate future, and are thus more logical choices for archiving?

We have an opportunity here to losslessly translate Shorten data to FLAC and exclusively use FLAC for lossless compression. At the very least, could recommend use of FLAC above any other lossless compressor and tell submitters that's mission might require translation into a free software format for preservation purposes. Neither of these things is being done and could become a laughing stock because of it.

I encourage everyone to make use of FLAC, not non-free software compressors. As an added incentive, FLAC competes well on technical grounds (as that comparison chart I pointed to before illustrates). If the goal of the archive is to make data useful for patrons into the future, getting caught up in the proprietary format of the moment is a costly mistake.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: greenone Date: Apr 19, 2004 1:25pm
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Try FLAC instead.

I'm not entirely sure what this discussion has to do with the original post (though it is a worthwhile one). All the guy's looking to do is to be able to get music onto his computer. To do that, at least with the files currently on the archive, he'd need BOTH a Shorten decompression program (like mkwACT) and a FLAC decompression program (like FLAC Frontend).